Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) acid plant still an environmental issue after 64 years – by Leslie Knibbs (Sudbury Star – October 28, 2021)

In 1957, the Cutler acid plant opened in Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) after the Canadian government negotiated a 99-year lease with mining company Noranda Mines, which was at the time involved in the uranium mining industry in Elliot Lake. The plant was established to process uranium from Elliot Lake’s mines.

SRFN member, Lianne Leddy documented the story of the effects of the acid plant in her book, ‘Serpent River Resurgence.’

Lianne Leddy, a member of SRFN and professor from Wilfred Laurier University said in a recent interview, “When the plant was in operation, the fumes caused deforestation in the area, damage to roofs, community gardens, cars and even holes in the laundry drying out on the line.

“Even after the plant closed, community members had skin and eye irritations as a result of the plant. Rosalie Bertell did a study in the early 1980s and documented higher incidences of chronic illness than on neighbouring reserves that she connected to the plant and uranium mining. Some men who worked at the acid plant had chronic bronchitis; children had rashes and eye problems, especially from swimming in Aird Bay; and pregnancy loss.”

In 1983, a study done by Dr. Roselie Bertel, she reported, “elevated rates of unexplained fetal deaths and abnormal offspring for plant workers.”

Six years after opening, the plant closed in 1963 leaving a legacy of out-of-control pollution and contamination of water and lands in Serpent River First Nation. Following the shutdown with production halted, there was no immediate clean-up or remediation.

For the rest of this article: